Man pleads guilty to animal cruelty in police dog's death

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EDMONTON, Canada -- Constable Matt Williamson used to tell his young children that he gave bad guys time-outs in jail while his dog, Quanto, helped by barking.

But when the Edmonton police dog was stabbed to death last fall, Constable Williamson's 6-year-old daughter started to ponder the real dangers of her father's work. Crying, she went to her dad one day with a question: " 'If Quanto's job was to protect you from bad guys, ... is a bad guy going to kill you?' " Constable Williamson recalled in a victim impact statement read in court.

"She now never lets me leave for work without a hug," he said.

The man who killed the dog, Paul Vukmanich, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to six charges, including animal cruelty and flight from police. Prosecution and defense lawyers recommended he get 26 months in jail. A judge is to sentence him today.

The court heard that the 27-year-old was on parole and high on cocaine and methamphetamine Oct. 7 when he got caught driving a car with stolen plates. When police tried to pull him over, he sped over a median and several curbs, sent sparks flying and blew out three tires. He abandoned the car in a parking lot, then took off on foot.

Constable Williamson warned him to stop or he'd loose his German shepherd on him. Vukmanich slowed, but refused to get on the ground. Instead, he backed away in a fighting stance.

Quanto was set loose and bit Vukmanich on the left arm and hand. The court was told Vukmanich pulled out a knife and started stabbing the dog in the chest.

Constable Williamson drew his pistol and several times ordered the man to drop the knife. Other officers also yelled at Vukmanich to stop stabbing the dog. At some point, Vukmanich dropped the weapon, and Constable Williamson ran over and picked up his dog.

"Quanto's legs began to fail and then his head fell," said prosecutor Christian Lim. "The officer carried the dog back to the truck, with blood streaming out from it all over the officer." Constable Williamson rushed the dog to a veterinarian, but it was too late.

In addition to jail, lawyers agreed that Vukmanich should be banned from owning a pet for at least 25 years and be barred from driving for five years. He had previously received a lifetime ban from possessing weapons.

Mr. Lim, the prosecutor, also asked that Vukmanich be ordered to pay $40,000 to the police force to cover the cost of a new police dog and its training. Judge Larry Anderson said he would consider the request, although he said it seemed to him to be more of a civil claim.

The judge also said he wasn't sure a 26-month sentence was long enough, since Vukmanich has a criminal record that includes two prior convictions for evading police. "I want to think it through carefully," he said.

Officers complained after Quanto died that the strongest criminal charge that could be brought was cruelty to an animal.

The federal government announced last fall it planned to propose "Quanto's Law" to protect police animals, but didn't specify what such a law might entail.

Constable Williamson was in Ottawa, the capital, when that announcement was made.

He wrote in his court statement that Quanto was like a pet to the Williamson family, but knew that his primary role was as protector. Constable Williamson said he is to start training a new dog soon and will rejoin the canine unit in the spring.

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